Cyrus Reed Teed was born in 1839 in the burned-over district of upstate New York. After serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War, he set up shop as a free-lance practitioner of eclectic medicine and an alchemist.
In the autumn of 1869, the night after he achieved the Philosopher's Stone, he received a vision of the Mother of the Universe as a beautiful woman. He was "Illuminated" and discovered that he was the Seventh Messiah spoken of in the book of Isaiah, chapters 10, 40, and 44-45. (In case you're wondering, the first six Messiahs were Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.) He took the name Koresh, the Hebrew (or possibly Greek) version of his given name, and began to preach the true religion. Shortly thereafter he relocated to Chicago, abandoning his wife and son, and began to gather a group of faithful.
Koresh was a fiery, charismatic speaker, and by 1893 his commune in Chicago had 123 members. That year they acquired 300 acres of land in South Florida, near modern-day Fort Myers Beach, on which they began to build the New Jerusalem; a mathematically perfect city that would house 20 million true believers and be surrounded by an artificial Crystal Ocean.
Well, they didn't quite make it there. At its height in 1906, the Koreshan community of Estero had 200 inhabitants and 5000 acres, most of Fort Lee County. The town had a bakery, a sawmill, a machine shop, an art gallery, an acting company, a symphony orchestra, a scientific laboratory, and the most successful publishing house in South Florida-- not to mention enough agriculture to make the community self-sufficient and the most advanced clothes dryer in the Southeast.
The commune ran into political troubles while attempting to get the town of Estero incorporated, and Koresh's health began to decline after he was involved in a street fight with a local politician. Two years later, after he was forced by declining health into retirement, Koresh's novel, The Great Red Dragon, was published. It was a thinly disguised retelling of his own plans for his life.
In December 1908, despite his own protestations of immortality and advanced medical treatments with salt water and electric shock, Koresh, the Seventh Messiah, died. His disciples faithfully kept watch over the body, propped in a bathtub, while waiting for his resurrection. Several days later the health inspector ordered them to bury the quickly decaying corpse. A mausoleum was built on the banks of the Estero River, and a 24-hour resurrection watch was kept by the remaining faithful until 1920. That's when, in a fitting end to a life lived large, the entire tomb was swept out to sea by a hurricane.
After Koresh's death and failure to return from the dead, the cult slowly declined. During the Great Depression, most of the land was sold, and in 1962 the few surviving members deeded the remaining land to the state of Florida. It became the Koreshan State Historic Site, and the remaining Koreshans worked there as tour guides until the last died in 1982. The park still celebrates the Lunar Festival Holiday on April 8, and the buildings of the commune can be toured.
The doctrine of Koreshanity is somewhat similar to that of the Shakers. Koreshans lived communally, worked hard, and did their best to stay celibate. They believed in equality of the sexes, and a dual "Mother and Father God"; women had more say than men did in community decisions. They were surprisingly cultured and educated people, consisting of people from all over the United States of America.
They also believed in reincarnation, the existence of a higher spiritual unity, and the perfectibility of the human spirit, and attempted to science to bear on religion; Koresh described the direct experience of God as "a sensation as of a Faradic battery of the softest tension, about the organs of the brain called the lyra, crura penealis and conarium." They also believed in a metaphysical, universal "force" that could be harnessed to affect gravity and matter; it was these good "vibrations" that allowed birds to fly, Jesus to walk on water, and Koresh to levitate heavy blocks.
It was an apocalyptic sect, as well, and Koresh wrote of a great "bio-alchemical transmutation" that would dematerialize thousands of people and bring on the time of the Sons of God. Koresh was eclectic in theology as well as medicine, and elements of Koreshan doctrine can be traced to sources as varied as phrenology, alchemy, and socialist economics. Of course, none of this is what Koresh is remembered for.
He did not believe in a flat earth.
He believed in a hollow earth.
And we're living on the inside.
It's actually not as kooky as it sounds. As anyone with a little knowledge of topology can visualize, it's sort of true, from a certain perspective: any point outside a sphere can be mapped to a corresponding point on the inside, so the inside and outside are, topologically, the same.
From a less lofty point of view, many of his explanations make a surprising amount of sense. The whole idea can be traced to an "as above, so below" metaphor; just as the basic unit of life is the cell, so the basic unit of the universe is the world-cell, hollow balls tightly packed together, encasing life in their insides. The sun is quite small, orbits the center of the earth, and is half dark and half light; its rotation gives the illusion of rising and setting. The stars and moon are explained various ways; usually as reflections of the bright side of the sun. The atmosphere grows thicker toward the center of the earth, preventing us from seeing across to the other side. He had many other explanations, some rather more metaphysical
Koresh even made scientific measurements that proved that the earth curves inward at a rate of about 8 inches per mile.
And just so you don't think this was an isolated belief, early in this century a German named Peter Bender began spreading similar ideas under the name "Hohlwelthehre" - Hollow Earth Theory. It's unclear whether he came up with the idea independently; however, by the mid-thirties, Koreshanity had heavily influenced him through some of Koresh's writings that had made it to Europe. Bender eventually died in a Nazi concentration camp, but the idea had been well enough disseminated that in 1942 the Nazi leadership sent a scientific expedition under Dr. Heinz Fisher to the Baltic Sea. Part of their purpose was to use newly developed infrared sensors to spy on the British fleet-- by looking up across the hollow earth. Dr. Fisher was later recorded as saying, "The Nazis forced me to do crazy things." There was even an Indiana Jones book very loosely based on his expedition.
Still, I'd have to say that the preponderance of evidence points to the fact that this Earth of ours is spherical and convex. It's too bad really. I think I would have liked living in a Dyson sphere.
By the way, the Microsoft Word spell check interprets "Koreshanity" as "certainty". I find this highly significant.
Sources: http://www.news-press.com/news/today/teedpartone1214.html and
Encyclopedia of the Strange by Daniel Cohen, amomg others.
Koresh, as for as I know, had no connection with the other one, except that they both seized on the same vaguely prophetic bible verses as justification.